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Thursday, August 18, 2011

Clapper Rail Bird, Thought Extinct in San Francisco, Found Nesting in Hunters Point

Posted By on Thu, Aug 18, 2011 at 8:00 AM

click to enlarge He's back!
  • He's back!

A mating pair of federally endangered San Francisco Bay clapper rail -- a once abundant species thought vanished from San Francisco -- have been discovered alongside some chicks in Heron's Head Park.

The park is on a pier made of gravel that was dumped into the Bay to provide footing for what was to be a third crossing automobile bridge to the East Bay. Since then, however, it's been converted to a marshy natural preserve -- jealously guarded by Hunters Point community groups and school children as a refuge for wildlife in the city's most hardscrabble neighborhood.

Local avian expert Dominick Mosur, who discovered the birds, said it's unlikely such a find would be possible at the city's other industrial area-turned-marshland habitat -- Crissy Field.

"Unlike Crissy Field, which is a playground for rich people and their dogs, Hunters Point is passionate about preserving wildlife at Heron's Head," Mosur said.

The California clapper rail is grayish brown with a long, downward-curved bill. Its population around the entire Bay Area has dwindled to just a couple thousand birds, thanks to destruction of coastal marshland.

Until last summer, there were thought to be no clapper rails living at all in San Francisco proper. The one showed up at the park and somehow "he found and attracted a mate, and now there's a nest of little ones," said Mosur. "This is an exciting event for birders and conservationists."

It's kind of thrilling for the rest of us San Franciscans, too.

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Matt Smith

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